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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

11. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (ErfÓl) - 28

Skj info: Sigvatr Þórðarson, Islandsk skjald, o. 995-o. 1045 (AI, 223-75, BI, 213-54).

Skj poems:
1. Víkingarvísur
2. Nesjavísur
3. Austrfararvísur
4. En drape om kong Olaf
5. Vestrfararvísur
6. Et kvad om Erlingr Skjalgsson
7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson
8. Tryggvaflokkr
9. Et digt om dronning Astrid
10. Knútsdrápa
11. Bersǫglisvísur
12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga
13. Lausavísur
14. Et par halvvers af ubestemmelige digte

Sigvatr or Sighvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) is said (ÍF 27, 54) to have been the son of Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld ‘Poet of Sigvaldi’, an Icelander who served, in succession, Sigvaldi jarl Strút-Haraldsson, leader of the Jómsvíkingar, his brother Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’, who campaigned in England, and Óláfr Haraldsson, later king of Norway (r. c. 1015-30) and saint. Þórðr is listed as one of Sigvaldi’s skalds in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 259, 268), but none of his poetry survives. The family tradition of poetry can also be traced in Óttarr svarti ‘the Black’, said to have been Sigvatr’s sister’s son (ÍF 27, 144; ÓH 1941, I, 203). Sigvatr was brought up by a certain Þorkell, at Apavatn in south-west Iceland. When nearly fully grown he sailed to what is now Trondheim, where he met up with his father and joined King Óláfr’s retinue. According to Snorri (ÍF 27, 54-6; ÓH 1941, I, 81-3), Sigvatr recited Lv 2-3 at this time, and he interceded with the king on behalf of Icelandic merchants forced to pay a heavy tax in Norway (cf. Sigv Lv 4). It is also likely that this is when Þórðr provided Sigvatr with the material for Víkv (see Introduction to Sigv Víkv), which may be the poem referred to in the prose introduction to Sigv Lv 2 (Fidjestøl 1982, 118). There is no evidence that Sigvatr ever returned to Iceland, and according to the anecdote in which Sigv Lv 11 is preserved, he died on the island of Selja in north-western Norway and was buried at Kristskirkja (Kristkirken) in Trondheim. His poetry records his various journeys to Sweden, England and the Continent, as well as incidents in Norway. We know nothing of Sigvatr’s private life, except that he had a daughter called Tófa, who had King Óláfr himself as her godfather (Sigv Lv 19).

Sigvatr’s surviving poetic oeuvre is both large and remarkably diverse, encompassing different kinds of encomia not only on King Óláfr (Sigv Víkv, Sigv Nesv, Sigv Óldr, Sigv ErfÓl), but also on King Knútr of Denmark (Sigv Knútdr) and the Norwegian nobleman Erlingr Skjálgsson (Sigv Erl, Sigv Erlfl). Sigvatr was godfather to King Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson and composed some avuncular words of advice to the boy-king (Sigv BervII). All of these patrons are recognised in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 252-4, 258, 260-2, 269), where Sigvatr is also credited with having composed for the Swedish king Ǫnundr Óláfsson (although no such poetry survives, cf. Sigv Knútdr 4/6) and the Norwegian chieftain Ívarr inn hvíti ‘the White’ (cf. Context to Sigv Lv 8). Sigvatr also composed a poem on the Norwegian pretender Tryggvi Óláfsson (Sigv Tryggfl) and is unique in having composed in dróttkvætt in praise of a woman, Óláfr Haraldsson’s widow Ástríðr Óláfsdóttir (Sigv Ást). Several of Sigvatr’s poems are more or less loosely connected sequences of stanzas rather than more formal compositions, and encompass both travelogue (Sigv Austv) and political commentary (Sigv Vestv, Sigv BervII). The latter genre is also well represented in his lausavísur, which also include some remarkably personal stanzas expressing his grief at the death of King Óláfr (Sigv Lv 22-4). Sigvatr’s status as a hǫfuðskáld ‘chief skald’ was recognised in the twelfth century (cf. Esk Geisl 12/8VII). His versatility as a poet has clearly inspired a number of anecdotes focusing on the composition of poetry, mostly of doubtful authenticity (cf. Contexts to Sigv Lv 1, 8, 11, 27; also Introduction to Ótt Hfl). Apart from two fragments preserved in SnE (Sigv Frag 1-2III), Sigvatr’s poetry is transmitted in a wide range of texts within the tradition of the kings’ sagas and is therefore edited in this volume or (in the case of the late Sigv Berv) in SkP II. For general studies of Sigvatr’s life and works, see Paasche (1917), Hollander (1940) and Petersen (1946).

Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr inn helgi (S. Óláfr)’) — Sigv ErfÓlI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 663. <> (accessed 25 June 2022)

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga, o. 1040 (AI, 257-65, BI, 239-45)

SkP info: I, 676

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Sigv ErfÓl 9I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 9’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 676.

Olmr erumk harmr, sás hilmir
hafði; golli vafðan
jǫfurr kreisti sá austan
aflfátt meðalkafla.
Gagn fengu því þegnar,
þeir at hôlfu fleiri
— hvǫtuð tælði þat hildar —
— hvôrungi frýk — vôru.

Harmr, sás hilmir hafði, erumk olmr; sá jǫfurr kreisti meðalkafla, vafðan golli, aflfátt austan. Þegnar fengu gagn því, at þeir vôru hôlfu fleiri; þat tælði {hvǫtuð hildar}; frýk hvôrungi.

The grief that the ruler had rages at me; that prince clenched the sword-grip, wound about with gold, with scant support from the east. The subjects won victory because they were twice as many; that ensnared {the inciter of battle} [WARRIOR = Óláfr]; I fault neither side.

Mss: (467v) (Hkr); Holm2(67r), J2ˣ(224v-225r), 321ˣ(252), Holm4(62vb), 61(124vb), 325VII(37v), Bb(198vb) (l. 1), Flat(124rb), Tóm(155r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Olmr: ‘O[…]r’ 325VII;    erumk: erumsk Holm4, 61, Tóm, er um Flat;    harmr: ‘[…]’ Bb;    sás hilmir (‘sa er hilmir’): ‘[…]’ Bb    [2] vafðan: ‘vafða[…]’ 325VII    [3] jǫfurr: ‘[…]fur’ 325VII;    kreisti: kærsti 61, ‘ræ[…]’ with ‘kre[…]’ above the line 325VII;    sá: sá er 61, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [4] aflfátt: aflat J2ˣ, 61, Tóm, afl sitt 321ˣ    [5] Gagn: ‘g[…]n’ 325VII;    því: þar 321ˣ, 61    [6] at: eru 61, er 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    fleiri: fleiri vôru Tóm    [7] hvǫtuð: hvata J2ˣ, 321ˣ, hvǫtuðr 61;    tælði: talði 61, tælðu Tóm;    þat: þar 61;    hildar: haulda 321ˣ    [8] hvôrungi: hvártveggi 61;    frýk (‘fry ec’): frá ek Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, Holm4, 325VII, frýju 61

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 9: AI, 259, BI, 241, Skald I, 125; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 485, IV, 166, ÍF 27, 377, Hkr 1991, II, 528 (ÓHHkr ch. 224); ÓH 1941, I, 567 (ch. 222), Flat 1860-8, II, 352; Jón Skaptason 1983, 164, 303.

Context: King Óláfr’s army and that of the farmers and magnates approach each other at Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad). Óláfr and his troop, awaiting the support of Dagr Hringsson (a kinsman of Óláfr, ÍF 27, 348-9) and his troop, finally catch sight of their approach. It is said that the opposing farmers’ army had ‘a hundred hundreds’ of men.

Notes: [1] erumk olmr ‘rages at me’: Lit. ‘is furious to me’. — [1] sás ‘that’: (a) This is a demonstrative pron. + rel. particle es, referring back to harmr ‘grief’. (b) Skj B, Skald and ÍF 27 take sás as a conj. introducing the following clause, and take hafði aflfátt together, hence ‘that he had little support’. However, although (e)s can in some cases be a conj. equivalent to at ‘that’ (LP: es 7), would then be taken with the previous clause, and since it is unstressed that is not possible. — [2, 4] meðalkafla, vafðan golli ‘the sword-grip, wound about with gold’: For an example of a late Viking Age sword with gold wire wound around its grip, see Graham-Campbell (1980, 70-1, 246). Vafðan golli is also found in st. 27/3, 4 and Þfisk Lv 1/6II. — [3] kreisti ‘clenched’: The form seems to be a slight licence, since the 3rd pers. sg. pret. indic. of kreista is normally kreistaði. — [3-4] aflfátt austan ‘with scant support from the east’: Aflfátt is only otherwise attested in the form aflafátt (see Fritzner: aflafár). It is taken here as an adverbial n. adj. (cf. verða e-m aflafátt ‘sby has little support’). As an alternative to the present construal, aflfátt austan could be taken with the rel. clause: sás hilmir hafði, aflfátt austan ‘that the ruler had with scant support from the east’. Either way the reference is to poor support from the east, i.e. from the Swedes: see Note to st. 8/5. — [5] þegnar ‘the subjects’: These are the landowners who should have been loyal to the king. For the suggestion that this term implies internal opposition in the late Viking Age, see Jesch (1993a, 167-9; Jesch 2001a, 225). In the prose sources, Óláfr’s opponents are normally called bœndr ‘farmers’ (cf. st. 11/4, with the earlier form búendr). — [8] frýk hvôrungi ‘I fault neither side’: Jón Skaptason (1983) suggests that this is ‘for not showing prowess in battle’, and indeed the verb frýja ‘reproach, fault’ most frequently involves questioning of courage (cf. LP: frýja and see st. 17/4 below).

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